What is UNESCO?

UNESCO is an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

It is a specialised agency of the United Nations. Founded in London on 16 November 1945, its headquarters have been located in Paris since 1946. The agency seeks to “contribute to peace and security, using education, science and culture to encourage cooperation between countries, with the objective of ensuring universal respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, regardless of race, gender, language or religion”.

The idea to create an international movement to protect cultural treasures began in the post-World War II era in response to an emergency – the decision to construct the Aswan Dam in Egypt, which would flood the valley containing the temples of Abu Simbel.

In 1959, after please from the Sudanese and Egyptian governments, UNESCO began setting up an international programme to safeguard cultural treasures. Archaeological research in the area that would be affected by the flooding was accelerated, but more importantly, the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were disassembled, transported to a safe area and reassembled. The campaign cost USD 80 million, half of which was donated by about 50 countries who implemented an important programme of solidarity and shared responsibility for safeguarding cultural heritage.

The Convention concerning the protection of world cultural and natural heritage was approved by the UNESCO General Conference held on 16 November 1972. The Convention covers both natural and cultural heritage, with the objective of safeguarding the most prestigious monuments and sites, which are included in the World Heritage List.

The official emblem was designed by Belgian artist Michel Olyff in 1978.

It represents the relationship that exists between the natural world and culture. The square in the centre symbolises those works created by humankind. The circle emphasises all that nature offers us, as a gift. In addition, the circle is a reference to Earth, signifying that the protection extends to all cultural and natural treasures throughout the world, and that they belong to everyone.

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